Feb 11, 2019

S&P executives' talk of a recession is up over 2018

Expand chart
Data: Sentieo; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

S&P 500 executives are talking about a recession much more frequently than they were last year.

By the numbers: There were 115 mentions of "recession" or "macroeconomic conditions" last month — more than 3 times the 35 mentions during the same time frame in 2018, according to an analysis of earnings calls by research platform Sentieo.

What they're saying:

  • "Geopolitical and macroeconomic conditions have contributed to our customers having a more cautious outlook." — Stephen Milligan, Western Digital CEO
  • "We are undertaking and accelerating a number of initiatives to improve our results. It's not in our DNA to just stand around and wait for macroeconomic conditions to improve." — Tim Cook, Apple CEO
  • "If throughout the year, we see a change of those assumptions that there is in fact a recession and a bear market is coming, we’ll wait a bit, before we see evidence – total evidence of that, and we’ll adjust our expenses." — Henry Fernandez, MSCI CEO

Last year, mentions hit a high with 194 in November. Before that, the number of mentions hit 360 in February of 2016, after widespread concern about slowing growth in China.

  • Yes, but: Talk of a recession remains well below levels seen during and after the financial crisis, with executives mentioning the word "recession" 762 times in January 2009.

If history is a guide: S&P executives will ramp up talk about a recession when there's actually one underway — not beforehand.

Go deeper

Oil industry predicts "severe consequences" if U.S. bans fracking

The oil industry and its backers are coming out swinging against proposals pushed by Democratic presidential candidates aiming to virtually eliminate oil and gas.

Why it matters: The emphasis, made at an annual luncheon attended by hundreds of energy executives, shows how worried the industry is about the potential impact of such proposals, including fracking bans.

Go deeperArrowJan 7, 2020

Eurasia Group's top geopolitical, economic risks in 2020

Trump and China's President Xi Jinping in 2017. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Economic and geopolitical trends are both cycling downward, Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer and Chairman Cliff Kupchan write in their '"Top Risks 2020" report, out today.

The big picture: "Globalization is key," the authors write. The global economy is steadily fragmenting into two systems as the U.S. and China decouple and weaponize global trade and supply chains, ultimately creating a "split personality" globalization.

Go deeperArrowJan 6, 2020

Survey: Top executives are pessimistic about the 2020 economy

Source: Deloitte; Note: Survey reflects CFO expectations for year-over-year increases in business spending and hiring; Chart: Axios Visuals

Chief financial officers are bracing for an economic slowdown this year, according to Deloitte's quarterly survey of nearly 150 executives at top North American companies.

Why it matters: Multiple surveys showed plunging optimism among top executives last year, thanks largely to trade war uncertainty. Deloitte's survey is a signal that skittishness continues to curb companies' hiring and spending plans this year, which could further hurt economic growth.

DetailsArrowJan 9, 2020